minstrel: Beginning harp books
Linette at epix.net
Sat Dec 1 09:37:46 PST 2001
Greetings from Linette de Gallardon!
At 03:31 PM 11/30/01 -0700,Vivien wrote:
><<I have now had a chance to observe a beginning harper trying to "Teach
>Himself to Harp" from Sylvia Woods' book. I am severely not
>impressed. Indeed, I am finding myself writing exercises for two
>local beginning harpers, to try to back-fill over the stuff Sylvia
>Woods skips. I Am Not A Harper[*]: this is absurd. Can someone
>recommend a better beginner's book?>>
>Absolutely. In fact, anything *but* Sylvia Woods.
I've been really surprised by the level of unenthusiasm for Sylvia's
book. I learned to play on it and felt good about it, and have recommended
it ever since. But I already played several instruments and read music,
and given the above comments, I'm definitely going to look at something
else to recommend.
>I would specifically
>recommend a combination of Alison Kinnaird's _Small Harp Tutor_ and Ann
>Heymann's _A Gaelic Harper's First Tunes_, which is essentially the first
>half of her _Secrets of the Gaelic Harp_. Note that Alison's theory is a
>little weak (she refers to a B diminished chord as a B minor chord, for
>example). Ann and Alison both teach traditional ornamentation as opposed to
>Ms. Woods' tertian tonal harmony.
Are these for wire harps or nylon/gut? Most of the time I'm recommending a
book for someone who wants to play nylon (which is what my father's harps
are strung with). Traditional ornamentation is good if the person desires
to play late or OOP music from the various Celtic cultures, but it wouldn't
be necessarily more appropriate for someone who intended to play, for
instance, trouvere music. I, for instance, have little desire to play
traditional Irish or Celtic music (*love* to listen to it - don't bite my
head off! - just don't play it) so the above books would not appeal to me
as a beginner or at a more advanced level. Mind you, a lot of people
aren't really sure where they're going with the harp when they first start
it, or change their minds significantly after a little while with it.
>They also teach very strong placement
>Alternatively, Laurie Riley has a beginner's book out that is published by
>Mel Bay, and it's pretty good. Her placement is strong, and she includes
>some early music.
Another point I think needs to be made is that "placement" as we know it
may well be a modern concept. There's not a lot on early harp technique,
and what little extant treatises we have are from fairly late. I've read
and been told in workshops that there's evidence or theories that, for
instance, the ring finger wasn't used; that runs might have been handled in
a way very differently than the modern harper might. Much of the details
may be debatable, but it is something that a harper will want to consider
if they have a specific repetoire they was to concentrate on.
None of this is saying that the above books aren't good books, or that they
aren't better than Sylvia Woods' book, which I suspect they are. Or that
learning good modern technique will not help a harper to play well, even
when they learn period techniques that may differ. But those books may
still not apply to every harper within the SCA. Which would be true for
just about any book!
I really wish that some of the harpers I know who are working on technique
books would get going & publish them! I would really like to see a book
which would address technique and performance issues based on research
within period, preferably covering earlier period as well as the better
documented later Celtic and Welsh styles. I know there's Andrew King's
book, but his book bugs me on several levels and I'm sure someone could do
something more pertinent to the SCA.
Anyway, just a little rambling when I really should be doing work! We
should copy this conversation over to the ScaHarpers list!
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